This coming Tuesday, May 3rd, the Pioneer Valley will be buzzing with the generous spirit of Valley Gives, a once-a-year festival of giving for area non-profits, now including our fiscally-sponsored program, Act Too Studio Opera Workshop. We are proud of (and dedicated to) all our students, whether they ever become part of the workshop or not, but here’s our pitch for what makes the workshop special, and why we believe it enriches the whole community, far beyond the teen singers involved.
WHAT DO WE DO?
Act Too Studio Opera Workshop is an ongoing, student-driven educational arts project with performances throughout the year, including a fully-staged opera each summer.
Our growing workshop includes students between the ages of 13-19 at varying levels of vocal development, musical skill, and experience. Works are chosen with those factors in mind, and though this work is intended to be performed for the community, the focus of the workshop itself is very process-heavy. In order to bring their work to performance level, students are guided through deep musical and theatrical analysis of everything they do, along with study of the work’s cultural and historical context.
This summer, Act Too Studio Opera Workshop presents the works of 17th-century composer Claudio Monteverdi in a full-length, original narrative crafted especially for its teen singers, woven from excerpts from his operas, madrigals, and other works. The piece will be performed at Northampton’s beautiful, historic opera house, The Academy of Music, with guidance from early music expert James David Jacobs and new English adaptations by workshop director Melinda Beasi.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
Though we went into this project with the goal of improving our students’ musical skills, the real understanding that came out of it for all of us is that opera is for everyone. As our students discovered themselves and their own truths in the music and in their characters, their driving motivation became to share this discovery with everyone they know. And then they did, with remarkable success.
Tickets for last summer’s full opera production (Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium) were mostly gone well before opening night, and we found ourselves scrambling to cram in extra seats as other teens begged to be able to get in—some for a repeat performance. Just as our students surprised us with their initial interest in this project, they’ve also been the ones to show us that our conventional ideas about what most people will like or accept are just plain wrong.
“It’s like, instead of falling in love with a person, I fell in love with opera.” – McKenna, 14
For our teens, themselves, not only have they learned to love opera, but they are constantly impressing us with their own brilliance as interpretive artists. As we begin work on 2016’s summer Monteverdi project, students have already become intimately involved in the creative process, brainstorming ideas for the new narrative we’re constructing, providing feedback on English adaptations, offering up costume concepts, discussing their characters, sorting them into Hogwarts houses (yes, really), and analyzing the music and text. These young people are immensely talented and absolutely stunning when they put this kind of passion in their work. It is a sight to behold.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
In an era when the arts have become increasingly a luxury item, we at Act Too Studio Opera Workshop are dedicated to making our programming accessible to all our teens and to the community as a whole. To that end, we ask for your help.
Your donations to help us pay for pianists for our rehearsals and performances, and for production expenses such as sets, costumes, lighting, space, musicians, and other artists for our full productions. This year, you’ll also be helping us bring in an early music expert to guide our students through the process of bringing Monteverdi’s 17th-century masterpieces to life. And though movement has always been an important aspect of our work and training, this year we’re taking that to another level by incorporating ballet throughout our summer production. Your donations will help us hire our choreographers and procure rehearsal spaces suitable for dance.
Most importantly, though, you’ll be helping to create a beautiful, moving piece of art for these teens to share with you.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TODAY?
- Join our Virtual Facebook Event, where we’ll spend the day on May 3rd sharing personal stories from our students and others who have been impacted by the program!
- Check out our Valley Gives page, where you can start donating NOW, in advance of the official event!
- Give up a few seconds of your time to vote for Melinda’s #CheersToTheValley video to help her win a $500 donation for the Workshop.
- Share your own story! If you’ve been impacted positively by the Opera Workshop, we would love to have your story to share on Valley Gives day! Send your video, photo, prose, or any other kind of digitally-shareable media to Melinda at firstname.lastname@example.org for her to share during our Facebook event!
- Share all of these things with your family and friends!
We are grateful for any help, and so are our teens! Don’t just take our word for it, though! Let our teens speak for themselves!